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By Gerri Miller

In December 1969, the news media scrambled to cover the big stories of the day: the Vietnam War draft lottery, Charles Manson defending himself in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial, and the Rolling Stone concert that turned deadly at Altamont Speedway. Meanwhile, a less sensational story but one of longer-lasting social significance was unfolding inside a newsroom itself. Young women, fed up with their unfair, unequal treatment by their male bosses at Newsweek magazine, organized a workplace rebellion, took their complaint to court, and ultimately won their case. This story inspired the new series Good Girls Revolt, which premieres Oct. 28, on Amazon Prime Video.
Good Girls Revolt
Loosely based on the book Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich, one of the plaintiffs in the case, the series takes us back to a time when women researchers were expected to get coffee for bosses who called them “sweetheart” but were not allowed to write stories, no matter how capable they were.

The heroines of the tale are three young researchers, Patti Robinson (Genevieve Angelson), Cindy Reston (Erin Darke) and Jane Hollander (Anna Camp), who spent their time battling discrimination, harassment and inequality at the dawn of the feminist movement. The story unfolds in and out of the workplace—called News of the Week magazine here—and follows their revolutionary crusade, and its affect on their friendship and love lives. The actresses are well aware of its importance, and how far women’s rights have come.

“Now a woman can stand up and say, ‘I was sexually harassed by my boss,’ and people know what that is. Back then, there wasn’t even a language for it. You felt violated, or you felt belittled, but you didn't even know how to communicate that to another woman, much less men,” says Erin Darke. “The show is about this lawsuit, but it’s also about these women learning to become feminists, and what that means for them and their lives. As a woman in 2016, I still feel like I put up with things sometimes, but it was more exacerbated then, and people didn’t even know how to talk about it.”

Uprising StarsThe rampant sexism in a male-dominated workplace, is reminiscent of another 1960s-set series. “It’s definitely picking up where Mad Men leaves off,” says Anna Camp, noting that in the last season of that show, the character Joan Harris started her own company and began to assert herself in the advertising industry. “On our show the women have to come forward and take a stand and assert their rights, so it feels like a continuation of that,” Camp adds.

But Erin Darke makes a distinction between the two series. “Mad Men had very much its own style, both visually and in the storytelling. Even in the funny parts, there was always a seriousness to Mad Men,” she compares. “While our show is definitely serious, we're also not afraid to have fun.”

“We're embracing the era in a different way, too. There's nothing morose or sullen about how this show is portrayed,” adds Chris Diamantopoulos, who plays News of the Week editor Finn Woodhouse. “1969-1970 was such a vibrant era, and I feel like it's highly reflected in the way that the shots are framed, in the wardrobe, in the lighting!”

Good Girls RevoltAlthough the aforementioned characters are fictional, two well-known, real-life women appear in Good Girls Revolt; writer Nora Ephron, who worked at Newsweek, is played by Grace Gummer, and Joy Bryant plays lawyer Eleanor Holmes Norton, now a Delegate to Congress from Washington D.C.

Bryant had read the book Good Girls Revolt about four years ago, and gave it to producer Lynda Obst, who spent six months trying to convince the author to sell the rights to it.

“Lynn had not wanted to sell the book for a long period of time because, as a journalist, she was very suspicious of the various ways in which it could be distorted, as both a movie and a television show,” says Obst. “She didn't want to do a documentary, because she didn't want to invade the lives of her colleagues, and she didn't want to fictionalize it entirely, because she thought it might be distorted into some kind of exploitation film. I knew Lynn. We had many friends in common. So I reached out to her and convinced her of the purity of my intentions and that we’d get the journalism right.”

Authenticity was paramount to the production team across the board. “One of the advantages of being very old is that you actually lived through these times,” says Obst. But the young cast members who were not yet alive in 1969,  eagerly delved into researching the unique and unusual period.

Genevieve Angelson watched movies of the era, such as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Love Story  to prepare, and Joy Bryant traveled to Washington to meet Eleanor Holmes Norton, and spoke with her on the phone. “I felt a tremendous responsibility to her, to do right by her. I've never portrayed someone who is actually living and breathing,” she says. “I just feel very lucky to walk in her shoes with that pregnant belly, and that ‘fro” on her head.”

Although Good Girls Revolt is told from the women’s perspective, it doesn’t demonize the men, taken in the context of the time. “They may seem dick-ish by 2016 standards, but within the context of 1969, 1970, they were not unreasonable. They were charming, successful, charismatic guys,” says show creator Dana Calvo.
Doesn't Demonize Men
“They didn't know they were sexist. There really wasn't a nomenclature, a vocabulary for it,” points out Chris Diamantopoulos. “There wasn't self awareness. My character was behaving the way society condoned him to behave, the way that the path had been laid out.”

“We're not meant to be there, to be the chauvinistic dicks that play opposite these beautiful, thriving women,” adds Hunter Parrish, who plays writer Doug Rhodes, Patti’s boyfriend. “These were men of the time, and this is their environment and how they thought, based on their upbringing. What's interesting is seeing them be challenged to interact differently with the women. You see that evolve throughout the season.”
Filing a lawsuit
The story unfolds slowly, building to the filing of the lawsuit in the tenth episode. “We have stories to take us into Season 2, 3, and, God willing, 21,” says Dana Calvo, looking at the bigger picture. “This complaint had less to do with the legal aspect than how it changed and galvanized these women to change friendships, change their own self esteem, change their personal, primary relationships with their families.”

The wide reaching implications aren’t lost on Erin Darke. “Working on the show has made me realize that so many women have fought for the steps that we’ve taken,” she says. “I think sometimes, especially in my generation, there's complacency, because we do know how far we've come, but in order to keep taking steps, you have to keep fighting!”

Good Girls Revolt begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Oct. 28.

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 185 - September 2018
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